John Terry was banned for four matches yesterday and fined £220,000, a measly sum for a Premier League footballer.
Reactions varied on Twitter, from those that believed he should be banned for life and jailed, on the extreme side, to others that asked why he was brought to trial in the first place having been cleared by the courts.
Sadly, the FA’s verdict has satisfied nobody in this case, neither the hard-liners, moderates nor the liberals. So, you ask, what decision would have been correct?
This is a good question, and the answer is that due to other cases, and what the general public views as a precedent being set, the FA did somewhat have its hands tied.
But why did Terry’s racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand, which the FA’s less stringent burden of proof revealed to have occurred, not result in the same ban as that given to Luis Suarez?
The Times‘ Oliver Kay attempted to provide an answer, arguing that in the paperwork released by the FA, Suarez’ charge was lengthened due to his “repeated use of an offensive word or phrase”, item 431, and that what he said to Patrice Evra had “a wider implication than the ‘mere’ insult”.
It all seems quite straightforward now, doesn’t it? Well not exactly, because the FA have messed up badly on disciplinary cases before, such as that of Queens Park Rangers midfielder Alejandro Faurlin.
The tribunal at the end of QPR’s title-winning season for so long threatened to deduct sufficient points to condemn the Rs to the play-offs; the FA fed malicious rumours to the press, condemned the club and in the end, having taken such a long time to reach a verdict, decided not to take points off Rangers and derail their promotion train.
It is also worth pointing out that this FA hearing has come almost entirely after the horse has bolted. There was no punishment available beyond a ban, ludicrously small though it is.
Terry has retired from international football, banning him for life when a court has acquitted the defender would be ridiculous and set a dangerous precedent, and there is no captaincy issue to mull over.
This is besides the one that may now exist at Chelsea Football Club, who must decide whether they feel it is appropriate for Terry to carry on as skipper unpunished. The likelihood is that, having supported their man to date, the Blues will not just fall in line with the FA now.
Interestingly, one of the most cogent arguments made on Twitter came from Joey Barton, of all people. The exiled Marseille midfielder questioned the length of his ban – 12 matches – and compared it to the sentence handed down onto Terry. “12 games!!! By the FA’s perverse reckoning, I’d of got less of a ban for racially abusing the Man City players than tickling them as I did.”
Barton’s outrage was potent and his humour brilliant, including a mention to a dream he had involving “Terry, a roaring crowd and a firing squad”. The above post secured 7,154 retweets.
Now, when even Barton, described by one poster as “the biggest c**t in English football”, second only to the Chelsea captain, is able to point to the flaws in your processes, it should be obvious that there is a big problem.
Another lamentable point is that both Suarez and Terry, leading lights of England’s top division, will both probably protest their innocence and claim a sort of martyrdom – they are victims of the FA’s attempt to appear as though it is standing up to big issues in the game. Not only are they wrong, but this sort of behaviour has left, in the words of Mr Kay, a stain on English football.
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